Hunter x Hunter 1999 vs 2011 Part 3: The Zoldyck Family

Meet Killua’s family, the league of crazy assassins.

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As the Hunter x Hunter dub enters the year of the Chimera Ants, the ever-popular head to head comparison series between the 1999 and 2011 anime returns! Finally out of the Hunter Exam arc, the shortest arc of the show commences- the Zoldyck Family arc, which gives the viewers a first look at Killua’s family, and also shows the extraordinary resolve of Gon and his friends as they attempt to rescue the former. For those who missed it, here’s the links to Part 1 and Part 2 focusing on the Hunter Exam arc.

 

The First Task of New Hunters! Find Kukuroo Mountain! Rescue Killua! (1999, Episode 32-36, 2011 Episode 22-26)

Admittedly, it’s difficult to even split up any portion of this arc, given that in both iterations of the anime, it spans a mere five episodes (which is is stark comparison to the previous Hunter Exam arc, which ran for 31/21 episodes in both anime version respectively. Add in 2011’s Chimera Ant arc, which spanned 60 episodes, and the brevity of the Zoldyck Family arc is even more pronounced.)

Despite its short length, the arc is extraordinarily important for two main reasons- the first being the introduction (at least briefly) of the rest of Killua’s family outside Illumi, who was introduced formally at the end of the prior arc; and the continuation of character arcs that see the main foursome begin to go their separate ways after this point, where outside of the Yorknew City arc, most of the viewers’ time would be dominated by the brilliant friendship and adventures of Gon and Killua, but that’s for another day.

As for the story itself, the Hunter Exam is now over; Gon, Kurapika and Leorio are officially licensed Hunters, and as such, their first unofficial job is the agreed-upon rescue of Killua from the clutches of his crazy family. After a brief confrontation between Gon and Illumi at the end of the previous arc, the location of the Zoldyck family estate is revealed to be Kukuroo Mountain, on a completely different continent and country (the Republic of Padokea, more specifically.)

Before we reach the family themselves though, the arc also introduced a number of family servants and butlers, who played a key role for the arc:

ZEBRO

1999                                            2011

    Image result for zebro

SEAQUANT

1999                                            2011

Image result for seaquant             https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/f/f3/Seaquant_face.png/revision/latest?cb=20141110065042&path-prefix=ru

 

CANARY

1999                                                             2011

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/6/6b/Canary_high_quality.JPG/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/250?cb=20120226162650      

 

GOTOH

1999                                             2011

     https://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/8/8e/Gotoh_HxH_2011.PNG/revision/latest?cb=20120401042159

Once again, the lighter shading and style of the 2011 anime is noticeable in these character models; however, only Seaquant received a notably huge design overhaul, although his headband and mustache was preserved between both iterations. Zebro’s sideburns are noticeably bushier in the later anime adaptation; Canary’s design is remarkably similar, though her hair is now black instead of reddish (and fluffier-looking), her skin is more natural looking rather than the bleached sort of look in the picture, and her outfit has had a palette swap, with the bolo tie being slightly more pronounced. The same goes for Gotoh, whose face has a bit more definition, a lighter shade, and a red clasp on his tie.

(Of story note, Gotoh and Canary return to play important roles in the Chairman Election arc, which only the Madhouse adaptation has in anime form, but for now, the focus will stay on their roles merely in this arc.)


One of the more striking differences in the Zoldyck Family arc (and there are few, this arc is actually quite similar in both versions) is Gon’s confrontation with Mike, the family’s deadly hunting dog.

In both versions, while Gon is still insistent on entering the estate despite Zebro’s warnings, he instantly finds himself filled with a kind of primal fear upon merely sensing Mike’s prescence, let alone seeing him. However, in 1999, when Leorio accidentally breaks down the fake Testing Gate doors, Gon fins himself face to face with the fearsome canine, who proceeds to try and kill him; an encounter the young Hunter survives successfully with some help from Seaquant. Mike also has a sort of burgundy colored fur in the later version as opposed to the white fur he’s sporting in 1999:

MIKE (pronounced “me-kay”)

1999                                                 2011

        https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/1/1c/Full_Mike_2011.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/210?cb=20150111055109

 

White or red, this is one big dog you don’t want to mess with.

While the servants do get plenty of screentime and moments through the arc, it’s the titular family that steals the show. True to Killua’s claims to Gon, and further validated by Illumi’s official reveal and actions at the end of the Hunter Exam arc, the Zoldyck clan is one of dangerous, albeit eccentric, assassins, all incredibly deadly and driven by individual pursuits often unbeknownst to other family members. Their mansion is spacious, but has the look and feel of a medieval castle; it’s hardly what one might call “inviting” despite the obvious wealth obtained from the dark trade the family specializes in.

Perhaps what reinforces this mental image the most is our first glimpse of the estate is a torture room where Milluki, the portly second-eldest brother of the five Zoldyck children, is whipping a thoroughly unrepentant (not to mention bored-looking) Killua for his venture to take the Hunter Exam.

So, here’s the members of the Zoldyck clan we see for the first time in this arc. I should note that of the family silhouettes in the picture above (which also appear in the intros of the anime), 2 of the figures are not actually seen in this arc; one makes an appearance in the final arc of Madhouse’s anime, while the other never actually has made an anime appearance (and only appears in passing in the manga, for that matter.) As it stands though, here’s the rest of the world’s most dangerous family:

ZENO ZOLDYCK

 

 

SILVA ZOLDYCK

Image result for silva zoldyck

 

MILLUKI ZOLDYCK

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/a/a1/Milluki_Zoldyck_1999_Design.gif/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/226?cb=20131022004202

 

KALLUTO ZOLDYCK

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/6/69/Kalluto_Zoldyck_2011_Design.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/640?cb=20140919160854&path-prefix=ru

 

KIKYO ZOLDYCK

https://i1.wp.com/student.delta.edu/allysonwilliams/project1/Pictures/Kikkyo.gifhttps://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/a/a8/Kikyo_Zoldyck_2011.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/200?cb=20150111053538

 

From top to bottom, you might note that the family’s designs actually are on the whole not too remarkably different, with a few exceptions, between the two versions. In fact, one of the most changed up Zoldycks between the two anime iterations is actually Killua himself, which was explored in the first part of this series,

Remarkably, Zeno’s overall design is almost a 1:1 match, if you take away the brightening of a few colors and the slightly wavier hair. His outfit, down to the kanji is almost exactly the same, with a few minor changes; the piping on his shirt is a lighter shade of purple in 2011 vs a thin line of white in 1999, and the metal collar around his neck has been made slightly rounder and shinier in the new version. In this arc, Zeno’s role of chastising Milluki doesn’t change much; he’s introduced without too much else to say here.

The current leader of the Zoldyck family, Silva’s design from Nippon’s to Madhouse’s gave him a bit more musculature, particularly in the shoulders, and his skin is paler as well in the later version. While his outfit has the same overall design in both, the blues present in ’99’s gi have been replaced with the predominant lighter purple indicative of the Zoldycks in 2011, and the belt has been changed to red from gray. Silva’ hair remains similar, though a slight bit longer in the newer version…in the story, his talk with Killua allowing him to leave the estate is quite similar in both versions, though in ’99 Killua sits in front of Silva, while in 2011 he sits next to him in his room during the discussion.

Milluki’s appearance as a fat guy doesn’t change; and his facial design is almost identical between versions. Madhouse’s show accentuates just how portly he is a bit more, where his shirt seems fit to burst; and in ’99 he’s actually wearing sweatpants and slippers at home, which is a bit different. Arrogant and overtly proud about his technological prowess while jealous of Killua’s place in the family, he’s the same guy in both versions.

Kalluto’s debut amounts to a cameo in both iterations of Hunter x Hunter for this arc. Paired along aside Kikyo, his mom (yes, Kalluto’s a boy despite appearances), he actually received the biggest design overhaul of any Zoldyck; everything from his hair to the color of his kimono was altered in 2011 (although in ’99, the black kimono shows up on him in the Greed Island OVA’s.) Despite the design differences, he doesn’t do much of note in this arc regardless of the version, only leaving an air of mystery around the youngest Zoldyck child.

As is evidenced by the many side by side comparisons, 2011’s anime once again brightened colors on the characters significantly; of interest is that Kikyo appears in a later arc for 2011, but in the Nippon Animation adaptation, this short couple of episodes is the only time she appears. The major difference of course is the yellow dress in 1999; it’s almost the exact same outfit, but now clad in the similar purple others in the family wear with the newer adaptation. As Killua’s mom, she still knocks out Canary in both versions and tries to prevent Killua’s departure from home once more, only to be defeated by her middle son’s furtive glance.


With all the major characters of the arc covered, there’s a few other changes and observations worth noting:

-In the ’99 adapation, each of Leorio, Kurapika and Gon keep working at the Testing Gate until they can open it individually (which is accurate to the manga.) In Madhouse’s version, once the trio is able to open the gate as a team, they proceed onwards to face Canary. In both cases, they thank Zebro and Seaquant for their help with training.

– I’d probably get skewered for forgetting this, but in 1999 Kurapika sports an amazing red outfit that he never wears again after this point, or in the second anime for that matter. In the latter version, the Kurta clan’s lone survivor merely wears the same outfit he had on during the Hunter Exam.

You can’t deny he’s got some style.

– During the Canary sequence in both versions, she has a flashback. However, the contents of the flashback differ, with 2011’s being far more extensive; which includes the entirety of her total victory over Seaquant’s party that tried to attack the family, and some time she spent with a younger Killua, neither really realizing that they wanted a friend… In 1999 it’s very short, showing Killua’s guarded return to the estate after the Hunter Exam, where he dropped his skateboard, which Canary propped up against a tree, along with a hand-drawn sequence that shows Killua offering the apple to her (which is true in both versions, but much more fleshed out in 2011’s context.) Furthermore, young Killua’s brief appearance in the 1999 moment was quite different from 2011’s younger Kil, who sported fluffier hair and a completely different outfit. Killua also asks her whether she wants to be his friend at a different moment; in ’99 it’s when he offers the apple; for 2011, it’s after Canary’s defeat of the hunters. He also shows off the Rhythm Echo in the later version, which Canary confirms she can use with great proficiency as well.

-In Madhouse’s version, Killua arrives at the butler’s quarters before Gon, Leorio and Kurapika, only to be intentionally stalled by Gotoh and company from seeing them when they arrive (and the coin game commences). The Nippon version had Killua still traveling to the lodge as the game was occurring, so as a result, he walked in as it concluded.

-After Gon and Killua are reunited, the latter’s skateboard is nowhere to be seen or in the plot of the Madhouse version, whereas the Nippon adaption has Killua entrust Canary with the board (given it was a part of that flashback and story I mentioned).

-The scene where the four main character depart each other is slightly different but still similar in both versions. (We’ll see Leorio and Kurapika again in Yorknew City!)


And with that, there’s a comparison of the shortest arc in either anime or the manga for Hunter x Hunter. Next installment, we’ll finally see Gon and Killua’s adventures begin with their journey to Heavens Arena, the greatest hub for martial artists in the world.


Like what you see? Is the Zoldyck Family arc your favorite of HxH? Leave a comment!

Review: Made in Abyss

A intriguing, albeit dark fantasy proves to be a unique descent in more ways than one.

That’s right: Behold, not one, but two new pieces for the new year! In addition to the brand-new Random Episode Rambling (Duck Amuck), the first review of the new year is a request from a reader in what proved to be a most entertaining winter watch at the end of 2017! For that person, and everyone else, I hope you sincerely enjoy this piece.

The Lowdown:

Show: Made in Abyss

Studio/years aired: Kinema Citrus, 2017

AniB’s thoughts: Much like the new year, there might not be a better way to begin talking about new beginnings than with a very recent adaptation of a show that had people buzzing in the anime community very recently: Made in Abyss. It’s such a new adaptation that only a 13 episode sub exists, and while I’m writing this review, it could in short order become a preliminary review based on the abundant evidence that in fact this show will get a second season.

As is the case with a great deal of anime, Made in Abyss is an adaptation of an ongoing manga, and while I can’t verify the quality of the source material, the anime itself is an incredibly bewitching world, in equal part fascinating, full of discovery and adventure in the truest sense of the word, set against unfathomable dangers and some bone-chilling implications and moments that don’t always seem possible given how adorable some of the lead characters look. (What can I say- don’t judge a book- or show- by its cover.)

Before I talk about anything else in the show though, Made in Abyss is visually stunning. It’s not just good-looking in the way most anime are, but breathes life into this multilayered world of “the Abyss,” a giant chasm which hides another world within it, ringed by a giant city ringing its entrance at the top. The ability to convey a wide variety of unique environments in rich detail, while capturing the respective mood of each place, is something worthy of mentioning, before even delving into the characters or the universe in which the adaptation exists. Furthermore, the fact that the animation proves to be key in enhancing the storytelling that it does shows a talented use of the medium in which Made in Abyss exists, and helps augment a series of well-paced, impactful moments.

Finally, the character design ranges from downright charming (seriously, look at the picture for this piece!) with an influence from chibi characters the world over, to foreboding and even downright terrifying…as you’d expect in an excellent fantasy adventure. The Abyss itself is a multi-tiered ecosystem of life, with fantastic beasts living within its many levels, continually evoking the sense of simultaneous adventure and danger that lurks around every corner… and those who explore it, the cave raiders. Among their ranks, which correspond to different colored whistles worn around the neck, the most legendary and feared of such explorers are the White Whistles- an elite fraternity that numbers in the single digits, and who alone are allowed to plumb the Abyss’s darkest depths, for the chasm of wonder hides a terrible secret only known as the so called “Curse of the Abyss…”

More than anything, I think Made in Abyss took me to a certain place of just enjoying a show for the fact that it was enjoyable. It definitely is a dark fantasy as you delve further into it (literally), and has plenty of serious ideas and questions that it probes along the journey that you follow along on as a viewer, but just entering this unknown world and seeing it with the same fresh eyes as Riko- the young cave raider who the story follows- is something that harkens back to experiencing something like Tolkien’s Middle Earth for the first time, or tucking into an adventure that you just know will be exhilarating, come hell or high water. And perhaps that’s why this anime is a perfect pick to start a new year of reviews (at the time of this writing): for a whole new adventure awaits, and like a descent to the bottom of the legendary chasm there’s no turning back.

On to grading:


 

Animation Quality: Absolutely stunning 2-D animation with a smattering of 3-D thrown in. Made in Abyss, as I mentioned above, is absolutely gorgeous, and its animation, far from just looking stunning, uses the medium to its fullest in its ability to impact storytelling, from warm moments to tragic ones. 5/5 points.

Characterization:
Made in Abyss’s story mostly follows that of Riko, a young cave raider who wishes to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the legendary White Whistle Lyza the Annihilator, by exploring the deepest depths of the Abyss, the massive mysterious chasm of which the show centers around. After a series of events early in the show, including meeting Reg and receiving a mysterious letter from the deepest reaches of the Abyss, Riko decides to embark on the perilous, suicidal journey to the unknown bottom of the Abyss in the hopes of finding her mother- and so the journey unfolds from there.

Accompanying her is Reg, a strange boy who is said to be an Aubade- a true sacred treasure of the deep, and while he is seen as a robot, he has decidedly human features that make him truly an enigma. Reg is kind, but rather shy and has several unique feature including extendable metal arms and a powerful weapon embedded in his artificial hands that even he is unaware of its true origins or power source…Looking to find more answers about his mysterious past, he agrees to travel and protect Riko on her journey.

The supporting cast is varied for a (currently) short show, with different characters that play an important role at each level of the Abyss, from the massive town of Orth ringing the pit on down. Normally I’d detail the supporting cast slightly more, but in this case it’s probably better to experience them for yourself (and to avoid heavy spoilers!) 4.25/5 points.

 

Story quality: Simple premise, amazing execution. As is typical of anime, the overarching story plot is present and the main thrust of that plot- Riko’s drive to find her mother- is deceptively simple. However, the setting and the character themselves bridge the “how?” question in incredibly unique ways, augmented by the settings and the experiences of other characters imparted as the journey unfolds. One last note: This show shows how a flashback sequence should be done. Without spoiling anything, people who’ve watched this show or read the manga will know what I’m referring to. 4.5/5 points.

 

Themes: What drives people to do crazy things? Furthermore, what does humanity’s never-ending quest to see the unknown lead to? For this genre of show, there’s this deep and often unnerving look at the human mind as much as there is a look at the depths of the Abyss, and in turn, there’s real stakes, solids twists and emotional impact that rings true. I’m curious where another season will continue to develop this category. 4/5 points.

Don’t insult the viewer: Alright, alright…so there’s highly disturbing sequences that I do caution the faint of heart about, and I wouldn’t recommend this show to anyone under…16 in good conscience, largely because of how intense parts of Made in Abyss can get, but it’s a tightly packed narrative the whole way with plenty of excellent sequences, some fitting music, a nice OP and ending, and intelligent writing. Can’t really go wrong with that!  4.75/5 points.

Total Score: 22.5/25 (90%). A vibrant fantasy world packed with adventure and danger around every corner has proven to be an exhilarating, emotional trip thus far, albeit for a slightly older audience than you’d expect such cute main characters to be starring in. There’s likely to be a season 2 as I mentioned, but the 13 current episodes are a must watch, though I will warn that the final few episodes are something to brace for.

Random Episode Ramblings #2: “Duck Amuck” (Looney Tunes)

Happy New Year everyone! I hope all my readers had a great end of 2017, and I’m wishing everyone the best in 2018. And to start things off, we’re going back to a classic short that’s instantly recognizable to anyone who’s seen it… Also, it’ll answer the following question:

“Where’s the Western animated fare lately?”

Well, fret not. The second (and also long-awaited) episode review is a an absolute classic from one of the greatest animators in the history of the medium- Chuck Jones, and in turn, one of the more iconic outings for Daffy Duck, everyone’s favorite hard-luck egotistical mallard. The Looney Tunes are definitely something I’ve wanted to discuss for a while in writing, and rightfully so- the influence of this show and its characters in the history of animation cannot be understated.

Looney Tunes of course, is iconic in animation, and  for good reason. It was a pivotal show in writing the rules to the medium and featured some legendary talent that worked on it, along with unforgettable characters, especially Bugs Bunny and the aforementioned star of this episode- Daffy Duck, who in turn had an interesting history leading up to the creation of Duck Amuck.

While certainly worth an entire “What’s In a Character” piece, Daffy briefly had been the biggest star for Warner Bros. in the late 30’s and early 40’s, usurping the lead role in the common pairing he’d have with Porky Pig. He was the archetype of the lunatic-type character, giving audiences something very different in a protagonist, and on top of that had a fair bit of talent and wit. However, the latter decade quickly saw the meteoric rise of Bugs Bunny as the new main star of the Looney Tunes cast, and so Daffy in turn would find his role transformed into the eternal second fiddle and archival of Warner’s main star, bitterly hoping to be the main hero again but rarely succeeding, in large part thanks to an outsized hubris and always to plenty of laughs.

Duck Amuck therefore, was an interesting exercise in animation. Daffy had been well established and become widely known in the years since his introduction by the public; how would he fare though shoved into completely different contexts that both dug at the fundamental aspects of the form itself, and still generated a fair bit of humor? In turn, this episode delivered something that was simultaneously a deconstruction of cartoons, along with an all-time memorable Daffy episode.

“Scenery? Where’s the scenery?”

The short first starts off with Daffy armed and ready for what he assumes is a Three Musketeers parody, complete with the title cards to match, the swashbuckling hat and rapier. Unfortunately for him, no sooner does he begin his actions than does the scenery disappear, confusing the duck as he begins a episode-long argument with an unseen animator, who in turn makes it a very one sided debate…

The episode then continues to put Daffy through the paces of a variety of animated questions, all done in a fluid sequence of gags, orchestral hits and bits, and Daffy’s one sided dialogue. What, for example, happens when you take away his voice briefly? How about when he doesn’t even look like a duck anymore, save his voice? All in all, this episode proves to both be quintessential Looney Tunes but also unlike anything else in the show’s long run- where a literally unseen hand constantly and silently breaks the fourth wall. (Who the narrator is though, is a gag in it of itself. The answer might present itself quite clearly to long-times fans.)

“All right, wise guy. Who’s responsible for this?”

From my own point of view, Duck Amuck is not only brilliant, but required watching for those who want to understand the animated medium boiled down to its very nuts and bolts…all while making for a highly entertaining segment that indeed is very Daffy Duck despite it being nothing like any of his other outings. The pacing and flow of the short is superb, and the transitions (as well as those unseen questions) happen in rapid sequence, which in turn actually causes Daffy consternation, annoyance, and final outright anger at the mysterious source of his misfortune through the show.

Perhaps more interesting yet is still the fact that it’s an animated short that is about the medium itself, beyond Daffy as a front-man. The duck is self-aware that he’s in “an animated cartoon,” and loudly complains about the incompetence of the unseen artist who in turn is the animator himself- which means Duck Amuck in turn is an episode that’s also about the creativity and sorts of zany things animators can in fact do- with the template simply being “this is Daffy Duck in a Looney Tunes short. Go wild! And remember to make it funny!”

Duck Amuck’s simple brilliance continues to shine well over 60 years from its debut. In that sense, Daffy’s character survived intact in this short the final test for all animation- the passage of time- and the presentation and unmistakable presence of this classic ‘toon has succeeded with flying colors in that key regard. In fact, Duck Amuck found itself selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in the US Library of Congress- a rare honor for an animated cartoon- and only one of three episodes helmed by Jones that has that distinction. High praise, indeed.


Happy New Year! (The Bills made the playoffs!) Like what you see? Love the Looney Tunes or Daffy Duck? Leave a comment!

An AniB Christmas Review Special: Coco

First off: A very Merry Christmas to all my readers on this blog! It’s been a wonderful first year of writing and what better way to mark the joy of the season with something I haven’t attempted yet – a movie review! The season is definitely about a variety of wonderful things, starting with the birth of Christ, but it’s also strongly about family, and Pixar’s latest outing- Coco- is an excellent example of this time-treasured theme done beautifully. Also, for those who still may have not seen it, don’t worry: This is a spoiler-free review!

The Lowdown:

Movie: Coco

Studio/year: Pixar, 2017

AniB’s thoughts:

“But, but AniB,” some might ask, “this movie is about the Day of the Dead! Dios de las Muertos! Not Christmas!”  Not to worry; despite the overarching subject material of the movie, Coco is a great Christmas movie, but more importantly; it’s a great movie, no add-ons necessary. Over a month after its release into theaters, it was definitively worth the wait to see Pixar’s latest gem of a film- one that once again is likely to be popular on the awards circuit for 2018 and the company’s strongest outing since Inside Out two years prior at the time of this writing (2015).

Coco is a special film, without a doubt. The story follows the tale of young Miguel Rivera, an aspiring musician in a family of shoemakers for several generations. In turn, the family trade had spawned from the indomitable matriarch Mama Imelda Rivera, who (as it’s explained in the opening sequence), started the business after the untimely departure of her husband in pursuit of his musical career at the expense of their baby child (who that is, I’ll leave up to those who haven’t seen the film to find that out.) As a result, the Rivera family enforces a brutal ban on music, despite Miguel’s love of it, and his secret idolization of Mexico’s greatest, late musical legend- Ernesto de la Cruz. From there, the story’s events unfold on Dios De La Muertos– a tradition the Rivera family, like most in Mexico, hold quite dear to their hearts. From there, quite the adventure unfolds…

An inevitable comparison was made by people to Fox Animation’s Book of Life from 2014; after all, the lead characters in both tales (Miguel and Manolo) are aspiring musicians both looking to follow their dream instead of the family trades of shoemaking and bull-fighting respectively, all wrapped in a festive, enrapturing world of Mexico’s Day of the Dead. However, Coco proves to have a deeper emotional resonance than the latter movie, and is overall the superior film, particularly in its attention to detail, the depth of its characters and the impressive world and story building that occur simultaneously. There’s some impressive eye-candy that makes full use of the medium through the movie’s sequences, including one involving Mexican papels (colorful hanging papers) in the very first part of the film, and the vibrant world of the dead (which was broken down in detail in a neat little segment by Pixar folks pre-movie, including Lee Unkrich.)

Most importantly though, this film reminded me yet again why I love animation, because so often as the folks at Pixar seem to do, they give wide-ranging audiences a glimpse into what animation can be, rather than the childish notions many still hold about it. Coco holds the basic tenets of animation that go back to Steamboat Willie and Co., with plenty of exaggeration, humor and personality, but it also goes about it in a genuinely human way that builds a cohesive story, excellent characterization, and emotional stakes that all too often, animated movies from other studios and outfits (particularly in the West) seem to forget. Prior to the film’s beginning, it was a stark contrast with some of the coming attractions that you tend to see when you peruse animated fare; there was fart jokes, a gnome movie that looked both unsavory and unlikely to change people’s conceptions of what animation can be (and featured one of the garden dwellers in a mankini, which was just awful); a pair of features from Laika and Aardman Animations that have some promise, but conceptually seem hard to get a great pulse on, and then the crown jewel of said previews: the widely-seen Incredibles 2 trailer (which I might add, the original is my personal favorite film of all time.) My viewing of Coco also avoided the widely complained about Frozen short that aired before the movie in its first two to three weeks of release; needless to say, I was quite relieved. Anyways, here’s my attempt on a grading basis for my first official animated movie review:


Animation Quality: 3-D animation. Being Pixar, this category is always superb quality and the best in the business for 3-D. The level of detail and craftsmanship in every shot, along with the detailed a vibrant character models breath life into an enrapturing world steeped in the culture of Mexico and the mythos of the Day of the Dead, all while creating a unique experience that also enhances the strong story backbone and the excellent soundtrack. 5/5 points.

Characterization: As mentioned, Miguel Rivera is the lead character; he’s a 12 year old boy who despite being stuck in a family who hates music for a very specific reason, aspires to not only be a musician, but chase his dreams like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. He’s a boy with big dreams, but increasingly finds his love for his family at a crossroads with his deeply held-musical convictions, a situation that finds itself at a head as the Day of the Dead comes…

The Rivera clan themselves are a great extended family that stretches several generations, including a number of dead relatives who are remembered religiously, with the exception of Mama Imelda’s wandering musician husband. Just who could that man be?…

Speaking of questions, you might be wondering: Just who is Coco? The titular character of the movie is someone very important to Miguel and pivotal in an unforeseen way; for the sake of not spoiling events, this character is very surprising how they factor into the film. (Those who have seen the film- you know.)

Finally, Miguel has a de-facto sort of pet, a hairless street dog named Dante. Eternally happy with a big sloppy pink tongue hanging out of his mouth and always hungry, Dante is a loyal companion, though a bit slow on the uptake.

The emotional stakes and character development in such a contained amount of time is very satisfying and well-done. Much of this focuses on Miguel, and [spoiler], another certain someone he meets in his travels who’s down on his luck, but it’s wonderful to watch and experience first-hand. 5/5 points.

Story quality: As expected of a movie, Coco is a wonderfully engaging story, but as is Pixar’s hallmark, avoids the pitfall of cheap, low-brow humor in favor of a tightly paced narrative that also doubles as a musical with the excellent score that was composed (more on that in a bit). The story itself has a wonderful ethnic flair, and seamlessly transitions from part to part in the film for a cohesive well-crafted story. Most importantly though, the emotional core of this film, which I keep coming back to, is absolutely stunning, and must be seen for itself. 5/5 points.

Themes: Mi famila, mi familia, mi familia! Yes, family is one of the most time-worn themes out there, but this film nails that aspect beautifully by sculpting the film’s actual story around just how deeply that tie can run. It never gets old to see family done right in a film, and the specific way in which this idea is achieved is truly unique. Aside from that, there’s a undertow about while it’s worth following your dreams, and perhaps “seizing the moment!” as Ernesto de la Cruz puts it, it’s also fair to question one’s morality in how far they will go to achieve such a vision… A solid, solid execution of both these major ideas rest in Coco though, and that’s extremely satisfying. 4.25/5 points.

Don’t insult the viewer: Coco’s a masterpiece. Truly, this is a beautiful movie for all the reasons I already listed, but one other truly outstanding aspect remains to be discussed: the score, composed by Michael Giancchino. This film is Pixar’s best when it comes to music, taking heavy influence from sister studio Disney in crafting an authentic Mexican flaired bevy of songs, which are both beautiful and catchy. (Also, what’s a movie set in Mexico without guitars and mariachi? The answer: a sad film.) 5/5 points.

Total: 24.25/25 (97%). Coco is a triumph of animated film yet again from the folks at Pixar, with deeply cohesive storytelling that bears a true emotional core. This film is definitely for everyone- but in the kind of way that will deeply resonate at the heartstrings in any age. It’s definitely a must watch.


Merry Christmas! Like what you see? Chat about Coco in the comments!

What’s in a Character: Nonon Jakuzure

Cute face, spunky, sassy personality: One of Kill la Kill’s Elite 4 takes center stage.

 

Finally, after many months of waiting, the “What’s in a Character” series returns, with a piece about…Nonon Jakuzure? Yes, it’s true that I wrote about Kill la Kill here, with no minced words, but I have my reasons for this highly unusual pick. She might not be the main draw of her home series, but she has a way of stealing the show on screen, whether it be through her devastating musical endeavors or just being the right mix of sass and cuteness…Without further ado…here’s Nonon!

WARNING: Spoilers for Kill la Kill ahead.


“Why?”

Choosing a character from an anime that I’ve made no bones about on its gratuitous fan-service might seem strange at first glance, but in reality, Kill la Kill does have some key aspects that work incredibly well in its favor. In particular, it has both superb character design and some pretty good character development, especially when it pertains to its key characters. While these discussions often revolve around Ryuko Matoi, the lead character, or her arch-rival/half-sister Satsuki Kiryuin, they less often fall on the latter’s faithful elite subordinates and commanders- the so-called Elite Four- and in conjunction with that, even less often on any of the individuals within that grouping. One such individual just so happens to be Nonon, and boy is she something else.

Chosen as one of Satsuki’s elites, Nonon is definitively not meek. The defining trait of Kill la Kill’s indomitable band leader of doom is her unabashedly rude, pompous and overconfident front that she juxtaposes from a position of power, hidden under a thin layer of saccharine sweetness and inauspicious cuteness. While this alone does not make Nonon’s character worth writing about, the context in which she’s deployed does to a by and large extent- and so the question of “what happens when you throw this character into unexpected binds and insane situations?” unfolds dramatically in concert with Ryuko’s challenges of Honnouji Academy’s various clubs, inevitably leading into confrontation with Satsuki’s Elite Four.

One of the truly remarkable aspects about Nonon as that she’s not a sympathetic character (at first) or even a protagonist archetype, but someone who is the right mix of sweet and sour who can become in equal part likable. There’s a clever juxtaposition of her musical motif- the band conductor- against her actual personality, which is far more spunky and not at all what you’d expect. She might like classical music, but her way of fighting is a punk rocker at heart under all the fancy trappings.

Physically, Nonon isn’t that impressive or crazily proportioned like some anime girls (including this series). She’s fairly petite, and has no defining physical features that would normally mark her as a key threat…but in a classic reversal of form, she might in fact be the nastiest and trickiest Elite Four member to fight- and her specially powered-up series of Goku Uniforms through the series emphasize a nice blending of her aforementioned motif along with disproportional power to her appearance.

Prepare to be pummeled cheerfully, jauntily and utterly one-sidedly!– Nonon, to Ryuko upon entering battle for the first time

In battle, Nonon proves to be ruthless, overwhelming Ryuko for stretches in her initial uniform before ultimately tasting defeat after a fierce battle, overwhelmed by the power of Senketsu. However, in all her on-screen battle appearances, she never backs down from a challenge, suggesting a fair bit of courage despite the bravado and attitude she possesses. As adversity mounts for her and most of the main cast with the show’s second half, her mettle is tested along with the rest of her compatriots, especially the other Elite Four members, as the truth of Honnouji Academy’s purpose and the Life Fibers come to light, and the subsequent turn to join up with their former archenemy- Nudist Beach.

Initially serving as a supporting antagonist, Nonon’s role shifts through the series while remaining steady in one key respect: as a loyal friend and subordinate to the aformentioned Satsuki, and while her loyalty is admirable, it borders on fanaticism. Her outsized sense of importance and rank meets some harsh reality as the show rolls on though, but admirably her bond with her boss/friend does not diminish.

Nonon’s temperament becomes a bit more muted after the defeat of Satsuki by Ragyo Kiruin, the latter’s mother, and her own losses that she suffered to Ryuko (although the latter point also made her hungrier for personal vengeance that never totally came.) While she briefly enjoys a resurgence of success in the show’s “School Raids” arc, the total defeat and takeover of Honnouji changes her role and position. She becomes a rebel fighter along with the rest of the Elite Four in the eccentric Nudist Beach group- guerillas dedicated to destroying the alien Life Fibers that serve as the core plot point of Kill la Kill.

 


When you boil her down to her essence, Nonon Jakuzure is a piece of work, but one that seems to get better as you continue to watch her. She’s not the main star (but you can tell on some level she wants to be); she’s bratty and cannot stand getting her way initially, but instead of simply preserving that personality statically through the show, she grows from her experiences while keeping a trademark caustic wit and sass that fits her position as the most trusted of Satsuki’s inner circle. There’s a decent, believable backstory to her as well, and it’s a simple, yet easy way to justify the roots of her actions, along with her positive trait of true friendship…Often times, a solid supporting character doesn’t need too much to fit their role well, but Nonon goes a bit above and beyond that with her well-though out design, developed personality and continued importance in the show even after her major defeat to Ryuko. Oh, and she has a kickass theme:

What does that mean?

Also, I couldn’t help but think of this as well:

(Well, she is part of the Elite 4.)


Like what you see? Any further commentary on Kill la Kill or Nonon? Leave a comment!

Hunter x Hunter’s Chimera Ant arc is finally getting an English dub

It’s about time- A brief history of HxH’s longest arc.

A few months back, I wrote excitedly about the fact that Greed Island for the first time was receiving an English dub, despite existing in some anime form since at least the early 2000’s. However, this might be even bigger…

An arc considered by many serious fans of the Hunter x Hunter manga and anime to be one of the finest not only in the show, but also across the genre, is finally on the verge of being dubbed. Very early Sunday morning will mark the beginning of the longest arc in the series airing in English on Toonami in the United States, and for those who haven’t seen it- buckle up, you’re in for a ride.

As with the Greed Island piece, here’s a brief history of the Chimera Ant arc:

2003: As the original HxH anime continued on with its set of Greed Island OVAs’, Yoshirio Togashi released the beginning of the arc in the manga on October 8th- which coupled with the frequent hiatuses of the series, would result in it lasting until April 2012- nearly 9 years!

2011: The Hunter x Hunter reboot (and the series mostly talked about) begins. At this point, the Chimera Ant arc is not complete yet in the manga, let alone the anime.

2013: Roughly a year after the manga finished the arc, the anime begins its version of it, marking the first new animated Hunter x Hunter story part since Greed Island’s OVAs finished in 2004. The arc would run into early summer of 2014.

2017: With the conclusion of Greed Island’s first ever English dub, the Chimera Ants will finally be heard in English on the Sunday of this writing (12/10/17 for posterity.)


As it stands, it’s rather difficult to talk too much at length about this very long and detailed arc without major spoilers for those watching for the first time, but the places in which the story goes during the next 60 episodes crosses the ranges of human emotions and psychology in ways shonen anime rarely, if ever does. It will be interesting to hear the VA choices for several characters, including the duo in the picture for this article, and with the shift in the story, it should really test the abilities of the dub actors to capture the same depth and intensity as the original VA’s.

Overall, there’s a lot to be excited about- and in many ways, it’s like an early Christmas present. Here’s hoping for both long-time fans and newcomers alike the English experience of the Chimera Ants is unforgettable.

Finally, here’s the very nice ending theme of the arc, but in 8-bits:

(I’ll leave the full version for the newcomers to discover. Credit to Studio Megaane for the track.)


Like what you see? Any more thoughts on Hunter x Hunter? Leave a comment!

Review: Mob Psycho 100

As quirky as its name sounds.

The Lowdown:

Show: Mob Psycho 100

Studio/ years aired: Bones, 2016

AniB’s thoughts: It’s been a while since my last review, but I’m following up one Bones production (My Hero Academia) with another one in Mob Psycho 100. Despite coming from the same production studio, they are markedly different shows, and this one in particular can be be described as “quirky.”

Mob’s a show that certain audiences will eat right up, and another subset will find it off-putting. Its characteristic animation style is somewhat befitting in a world of “espers”- powerful psychics that possess extraordinary abilities at the highest levels- and if Mob’s face looks somewhat familiar to fans of One Punch Man, it’s from the same creator.

This anime was another watch that I was completely unsure of what I’d find on the other side, but it proved to have a unique aesthetic that was fitting for what it wanted to do as a show. Its characteristic spontaneity and “weirdness,” per se, is somewhat charming in a way, but can be off-putting as well. However, the most impressive part about Mob Psycho 100 is how surprisingly grounded in reality the titular protagonist’s main goal is (find a purpose in life beyond just his extraordinary powers) and the unpredictable resolutions to the many problems and scenarios that crop in this show.

Overall, I might have expected a bit more from Mob, but it was still a compelling little experience and most importantly, was unique without being pretentious. At the present time, there’s a sense that a season 2 will come along, provided by the unresolved plot points in development upon the season 1 finale, along with some talk that there will in fact be a continuation. For all intensive purposes, this review could wind up being merely a preliminary take on the series, but for now, it will just focus on the 12 episodes that exist without judging on speculation.


 

Animation Quality: 2-D animation. Mob features a unique style with characters that have generally expressive, simple eyes and varying levels of definition, from very simple designs like Mob himself to that of the Body Improvement Club (a club at his school) that have incredibly well defined musculature, as an example. The range and style of different techniques is worth noting, and does a good job helping to set the mood, while conveying the story. Finally, fight scenes pack a punch and properly convey the power each combatant in ways that are both eye-catching and easy enough to follow.  4/5 points.

 

Characterization:  The titular protagonist, Mob (whose actual name is Shigeyo Kagayama) is an unremarkable looking boy noted for his bowl-cut hair and simple appearance. However, he does possess extraordinarily strong psychic abilities, and within that, also has a “mode” of sorts that can activate under extreme duress, which reflects his usually repressed emotions. Despite Mob being a prodigy, he prefers to look for a purpose in life without relying on said abilities; he treats people kindly and without any sort of ego, and is the protegee/ assistant of Reigen, his “master” (who’s more like a life mentor).

 

Speaking of which, Reigen Arataka is the self-proclaimed “Greatest Psychic” in the world; in reality, he’s a smart con-man who runs a small-time spiritual consulting business, and his assistant is Mob, who helps him with *real* supernatural issues and other smaller tasks, such as paperwork. Despite his inflated ego, Reigen has sound life advice for Mob through the show and is shown to be a quick thinker on his feet and a master debater.

 

Mob’s younger brother is Ritsu, who initially is all the things Mob is not- popular, an honors student and a member of the school council. However, he desperately wishes to have psychic powers awakened above all else, and aside from caring about his big brother, it is the one thing he wishes to gain, even to his own detriment…

 

Teruki Hanazawa, best known as “Teru” in the show, appears as the shadow boss of Black Vinegar Middle School (yes, there’s turf wars.) A powerful Esper himself, Teru winds up challenging Mob in an ill-conceived battle… Popular, charming and smart, Teru’s world changes after his encounter with the titular hero.

 

Finally, there’s Dimple. Initially a power evil spirit controlling a certain group, he was defeated and reduced by Mob down to a weak little remnant. He sticks around, hoping initially to get back his power but winds up helping Mob and his allies as the story progresses.

 

The rest of the supporting cast includes a number of recurring characters with varying amounts of importance in a given episodes, and are often over the top hammy mixed in with more serious sides, demeanor and goals, depending on the cast member or situation. It fits the show’s unusual dynamics rather well; and while the side cast doesn’t get a lot of depth, the main characters are dynamic and receive some interesting developments as they proceed further into the show. It’s an all around solid effort. 4/5 points.

 

 

Story quality: Following the standard story arc progression of most anime, Mob also has a pseudo-episodic quality, with the daily misadventures of Mob and others on the main cast (and also occasionally the supporting cast) proving to be both self-contained stories and parts of a bigger plot that comes together in an impressive final stretch of episodes to end the season.  It’s definitely convoluted, but this show by and large makes it work. 3.75/5 points.

 

 

Themes: In some ways, perhaps the most impressive aspect of Mob Psycho 100 was its exploration of purpose and philosophies of living in the context of the show. Often times, the show would do something undeniably impressive to point out the different gifts and talents of people, never bringing one aspect up as superior to another, and among the main cast, a great deal of searching and understanding occurred through experience, trials and learning that “the grass isn’t always greener” on the the other side. 4/5 points.

 

 

Don’t insult the viewer: Mob’s got a few unnerving scenes, but overall provided a uniquely strange ride that also proved surprisingly hard to stop watching, which is a solid quality to possess in a show. The OP fits the strangeness of the show well, though whether it fits someone’s tastes is variable.  4.75/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 20.5/25 (82%). As wild as you’d imagine a show featuring a powerful psychic boy would be, Mob Psycho 100 is an often strange but enjoyable journey through its protagonist’s attempts to lead a happy and fulfilling life, complicated by a never resting world of evil spirits, crazy psychics and unseen magic. It’s worth a watch.


Like what you see? Have you watched Mob Psycho 100? Leave a comment!